It doesn’t matter if you’re the most competent attorney or CDFA or mediator around. When your clients pay you money to get out of a bad marriage, they’re filled with a myriad of feelings. Stress hormones course through their bodies. Besides their fear, they also have a lot of narcissism, self-doubt, and doubt about you. The most competent clients still doubt your ability to fight for them. For someone going through a divorce, confidence in the very people they’re hiring is rare. You, as their advocate, are up against a lot of prejudgment, bias, and fear.
Your client needs to believe in you.
As a divorce professional, your role is to know your stuff. But for the clients whose worlds have turned upside down, you need to be more patient than you realize. Too often, frightened clients walk out of your office and question what you discussed. They do not trust what they’ve heard. They think they know better. Or they walk out believing that the newest bit of gossip will help sway their negotiation.
A client who reaches out several times after a meeting doesn’t believe in your ability to help them.
Despite your willingness to answer questions and be self-assured, something’s not clicking. As you know, the decision-making is up to the client. You don’t get to live their lives when they walk out your door. Yet, your role as the authority is to get through to your client in a way they can understand. This can be difficult for the expert.
Clients pay you to show up and be the expert in your professional arena.
As a life coach who works with your clients once they leave your office, professionals who play all the roles drives me nuts. Most attorneys are empathetic. You get it, you got into this job to help people. Your role is to represent and advocate for your client within the boundaries of the law. Or to be a financial advisor. Not to be a therapist. It’s not fair for your clients to be paying you more than they’re paying their actual therapists.
The problem is that clients don’t know this and you do. It’s appropriate to explain your role to your clients. It’s ethical to suggest they get a divorce coach and a therapist if necessary. Especially at the onset of their divorce when they’re in crisis mode. You do this to put boundaries in place so you can have a personal life. This sort of behavior is more healthy for everyone.
When you don’t, when you can’t pick up the phone or when a client can’t pay back their retainer and bill, you get stuck. Ask yourself, “How many hours did I overextend myself?” Once accustomed to the empathetic courtship, your client will encroach upon your privacy. It happens every time. Your evenings and your time with your own family get jeopardized. Then resentments on both sides get build up. This makes your legal representation more difficult. And the reputation of matrimonial attorneys, in general, awful.
Your clients need to feel that you believe in them.
Too often clients leave your office complaining they’re not heard. They already hate their divorce but they also hate spending time with you. Way too often you take on a client you don’t believe in and that doubt seeps into the relationship. The worst person in the world knows who they are. They also need clarity. The law is in place for everyone. When you manipulate it, you risk jeopardizing children and your integrity.
When you go against your own moral compass, chances are, you’ll get pretty sick. Not only from the stress you experience daily. But also because of going against what you know to be right. If you don’t believe the person sitting across from you, don’t represent them.
Your client needs to know they’ll be okay.
You could have the wealthiest person in town as a client. Or you could be with a non-working mom. But either way, when it comes to their future, everyone’s afraid on a certain level. We don’t marry imagining divorce. We’re also wired for intimacy and to connect. Your client’s swagger may exude confidence that rivals the most successful rock star. You may be amazed at their resilience, but let me tell you, it’s all a front. Inside, in the quiet moments of their life, they look at their reflection and are sucking it up. Everyone doubts that image.
Your role is to assure them. Let them know you’ve got their back. Suggest to all your clients—get comfortable doing this—to go to therapy and/or to get a divorce coach. Put the process into perspective for them. You can do so with the wisdom you’ve gained from watching your clients go through it. Divorce stinks. Period. It doesn’t matter how much wealth, how handsome, how prosperous or young. Your role is to guide and lead your clients to the other professionals they need. When you do so, you get your life back too.